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The candy queens of Lesotho



MASERU – ONE dreamt of becoming a mining engineer. Another wanted to be a doctor. Both girls ended up being candy queens. And they love it.
Growing up in Mohale’s Hoek, Alina Ralintši saw herself as a mining engineer one day. In Maseru, a young Limakatso Nthethe thought the doctors’ rooms were her call.

Those dreams did not come true. But providing a sweet tooth to Basotho’s young and old is turning into a more fulfilling adventure.
Despite their divergent aspirations, both girls ended in the same class studying for a BSc Chemical Technology degree at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). And then, out of passion and necessity, they became candy girls, a passion that turned into a livelihood.
“We were also surprised,” Nthethe told thepost.

She was referring to how they found a destiny in a vocation far removed from their earlier dreams.
It started with a college expo. Just for the kicks, the duo decided to make candy for the exhibition. Although people at the expo liked the candy, the girls didn’t think much of it so they stopped making them.
“We had a lot of school work but everyone started asking about the candies,” recalled Nthethe, adding: “Little did we know that the expo was the beginning of a business journey.”

Schoolmates started pestering them to make some more.
With M50 contribution each and a couple of borrowed ice trays, McAli Candy was born.
“We were producing jelly sweets using four ice trays and selling them for one Loti. By the end of 2018 four ice trays had turned into 15 trays,” said Nthethe.

They invested the money into more ingredients while borrowing ice trays from friends.
By June 2019, McAli candy had become a campus hit. People off campus were also beginning to place orders.

After graduating at the end of 2019, the girls continued with their venture.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit and, like much of global commerce, business slowed, while import of inputs became more expensive.
“We persevered,” said Nthethe.

In February this year as Covid-19 restrictions eased, Ralintši and Nthethe rented a place to work from in Ha-Matala.
“We also hired two more people,” said Nthethe.
Today many supermarkets in Maseru sell their candy.

“We have added marshmallows to our candy variety. We are no longer producing just sweet and sour jelly sweets,” Nthethe said.
“The quality of our products, especially the marshmallows, has improved significantly. Practice makes perfect,” chipped in Ralintshi.
Much of the improvement has been the result of customer feedback, chipped in Ralintshi.

“The ultimate goal is to build a local candy wonderland that can be enjoyed in all of Africa,” Ralintshi said.
According to the duo, starting a business is not easy but it is the journey that they would not trade for anything.
“We have learned the hard way and we continue to learn every day. It is the experience that makes the journey worth it,” she said.

One of the biggest mistakes early in business, said Ralintshi, was to accept an investor who didn’t have “quite our passion”.
“We were eager to improve our quality and quantity and in the end it backfired. We learned from it. It helped us appreciate our journey even more,” she said.

Access to official markets has been another major challenge.
“Local supermarkets are still resistant. The fact that we are young works against us,” she said.
“Some people don’t take us seriously, some try to intimidate us, some doors are shut in our faces simply because we are considered too young to own the business,” lamented Ralintshi.
“Many people don’t appreciate humble beginnings. It is not a nice place to be in but the experience is worth it,” said Ralintshi.

While acknowledging the tough road ahead, the duo is determined to see the new dream of becoming Africa’s candy queens come through.
“I am very proud of where we are today, taking into consideration what we have been through and where we started,” noted Nthethe.

Both girls chuckled at the turnaround in dreams from mining engineering and medicine into becoming the country’s candy girls.
“I would have laughed if at some point someone had told me that my dream of becoming a mining engineer was going to take a backseat, that sweets would be my life,” blurted Ralintshi.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers



THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students



THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe


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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize



MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.

STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.

Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.

He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.

The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.

Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.

“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.

“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.

His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.

Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.

He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.

The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.

Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.

She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.

Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.

She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.

She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.

The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.

Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.

Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.

The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter


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